Symbria-commissioned study shows strip packaging saves time during med pass

Skilled nursing communities can save a significant amount of time when they choose to use strip packaging instead of bingo cards for the medications nurses administer to residents, according to a new study by a team of University of North Texas researchers. The study, which was commissioned by Symbria, showed that strip packaging was a more efficient, less time-intensive form of packaging than bingo cards.

  • med-pass-researchMedication-preparation time per resident averaged 44 fewer seconds with strip packaging.

  • For a med pass with 15 average residents, strip packaging can save six minutes compared to bingo cards. For more typical med passes that include 20 to 30 residents, the savings would be even greater. 

  • Using the median, strip packaging saved about one minute per resident.

Strip packaging saved time because it provided individual packets that the pharmacy printed and sorted by resident, day, and administration time. Nurses could also tear-off and easily open multiple doses on the strip by accordion-folding packets and cutting them with scissors. In addition, nurses using bingo cards had to complete an extra step that is not required with strip packaging – returning bingo cards to the resident's space in the med cart.

About the study
This study is believed to be the first to focus exclusively on how packaging affects the process of preparing medications for residents. The study was designed to examine the effect of two types of medication packaging for oral solids (i.e., tablets/capsules) on preparation time.

During the study, research assistants observed nurses as they prepared medications to administer to residents in the LTC and post-acute-care units of two skilled-nursing communities in the Chicago area during the daily morning med pass. One community used bingo cards and the other used strip packaging.

Researchers also recorded interruptions during med prep. Major sources of interruptions in the strip-packaging community were talking with or assisting other nurses and co-workers. However, major sources of interruptions in the bingo-card community were med-prep issues. In total, nearly 37% of interruptions for bingo-card packaging related to med prep compared to only 18% for strip packaging. The most common interruption for nurses using bingo cards was not having the needed meds on the med cart (i.e., having to retrieve meds from another med cart – or calling or sending a fax to obtain the required meds.)

"Any time savings produced by medication packaging presents an opportunity to improve operational efficiency and financial performance," says Symbria Rx Services Chief Operating Officer Jay Mandra. "We were pleased to see that the strip packaging our pharmacy uses can save time and decrease interruptions for nurses."

Additional information
To learn more about this study, please read our research summary Choosing a Med-Pass System: Bingo Cards or Strip Packaging?